Item #3752 Trial of Mrs. Elizabeth G. Wharton, On the Charge of Poisoning General W.S. Ketchum: Tried at Annapolis, Md., December, 1871–January, 1872.

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Trial of Mrs. Elizabeth G. Wharton, On the Charge of Poisoning General W.S. Ketchum: Tried at Annapolis, Md., December, 1871–January, 1872.

[Baltimore, MD] : Reported and published by the Baltimore gazette, [1872] J.C. 8vo, printed wrappers, advertisement on rear wrapper. 172 pp., 24 cm. CONDITION: Good, paper at spine mostly perished, wrapper reattached, paper tape repair on inside of front wrapper partially obscuring the illustration in an ad for Howard House, Baltimore; lower margin and fore-edge of rear wrapper trimmed off (no effect on printed area), contents clean.

An account of the trial of the notorious Elizabeth Wharton of Baltimore for the murder of W. S. Ketchum—a socially prominent woman who went on a poisoning spree, dubbed by the New York Sun “the Baltimore Borgia.” Her victims included Ketchum, her husband, her son, and likely others.

General W. S. Ketchum traveled to Baltimore on Saturday, June 24, 1871, to visit the widow of his old friend, Colonel Henry W. Wharton, before she left on a trip abroad. Ketchum sought to recover from the widow her husband’s debt of $2,600 plus interest. Following his dinner with Wharton, Ketchum became seriously ill. While feeling better the next day, he was sick again later that night. He died in convulsions a few days later. The state of Maryland determined that he had been poisoned with antimony (tartar emetic) and Mrs. Wharton was charged with murder (investigators determined that Wharton had purchased sixty grains of tartar emetic on June 26th). The trial lasted some 42 days and included the testimonies of up to forty professionals in medicine and chemistry, a proverbial “battle of the experts.” Wharton was acquitted; however, the jury was unaware at the time of the unexpected death of the widow's son the prior year (she collected on his insurance policies), as well as the deaths of her husband, two cousins, and perhaps others. In fact, a financial adviser to Mrs. Wharton, Eugene Van Ness, had nearly died in her house just before General Ketchum arrived after drinking a beer Wharton told him contained a few drops of gentian to aid digestion.

In the trial transcribed here, the prosecution puts forth a wealth of contradictory medical evidence and seeks to demonstrate Mrs. Wharton’s financial debt to General Ketchum. The defense contended that General Ketchum had expired of natural causes (suicide, a fall from a horse, and spinal meningitis were variously proposed). The many deaths the general public fervently believed Wharton caused remain shrouded in mystery.

REFERENCES: McDade 1076.

Item #3752

Price: $550.00

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